Sunday, March 14, 2010

turkey meatball banh mi

turkey meatball banh mi with pickled daikon and carrots
do you know how many things
i cook, bake, mix together that
you never hear about?
too many. so two weeks
ago, i made a pact with myself
that it all would change.
and then the screen went black
on the computer.
this is not some blogger
metaphor for writer's block.
it actually stopped functioning,
refused to produce an image.

no computer aside, we got really
lucky. the problem, it turns out,
was a known malfunction and fixed
for free. but, it kind of put things
on-hold here for a while,
dinners piling up on the
memory card
and some meals, not even
making it to the camera at all.

but now, the computer's back,
most of the pictures are downloaded
and i'm trying really hard to recall
the details of some of the dinners
i've made over the past couple weeks.

but one dish that i have zero
trouble remembering was last
turkey meatball banh mi.

i've had my eye on the recipe
for 4 months, ever since
bon appetit published a
pork version in january.
truth be told, i wanted to make
these sandwiches the minute
i saw the recipe, so it seems
like i've known about them for
much, much longer.

i know banh mi is quite the craze.
or it was or it will be or something.
but, i first stumbled across
banh mi two years ago, at an
event in which i was partially responsible
for assembling minis, layered on a crostini
that would later be passed around
on pretty little trays.
it wasn't trendy. it was work.
they were were quite
a job to put together:
from the little i can remember:
a smear of chicken pate,
shreds of marinated chicken,
a cilantro leaf,
chiffonades of basil,
pickled carrots and daikon,
microgreens and a tiny
dollop of garlicky mayonnaise.

the chicken,
i could have done without,
but i'm a sucker for liver
and anything pickled.
i went home knowing i was
late to the banh mi game and
googled it anyway.
what i learned:
they are crazy cheap,
can be found in little tiny shops
in the city and, properly,
are served on gum-shattering
crusty breads. i wanted one.

it took months before i finally
set out to make one on my own,
only to admit, that even though
i'd never had the real thing,
these were not quite right.
that weekend, we visited
colleen and christian in philly,
told them about my attempt at
banh mi two nights before and then
became unbelievably excited when
i found out that they didn't know
what banh mi was. i was, at this point,
a wee bit obsessed with banh mi.

cut to the next day,
when the four of us,
on the way to somewhere else,
unknowingly parked
in front of a tiny, tiny
storefront, reading banh mi.
we were coming from dim sum
and not very hungry, but
we knew that we had to buy one.
for $4, we bought a gigantic
chicken banh mi, asked for it to
be split four ways and stood
on the sidewalk in front,
eating our share.
none of us were especially hungry.
all of us, i think, could have split another.
colleen talks about it here.

so, when i saw this recipe,
i wanted in. and last week,
i finally got it together
to make them.
i'll say this:
they were easy,
they were fun
and most of the work
(except for the cooking
of the meatballs) can be
done earlier in the day so that
when you're ready to serve,
all that's left is assembly.
not only that, but i think
everything will taste even
better with a few hours
of sitting time.

i'll admit,
i wasn't crazy about the
pickling part of this recipe.
for everything - and i've thought about this,
i really do mean everything - else
that i've ever pickled, i've
heated the vinegar mixture first.
here, not only was the mixture
just swished together at room
temperature, but it also used,
in my opinion, way too little
vinegar. yes, this may be because
instead of grating
the carrots
and the daikon,
i julienned them,
but still: a 1/4 cup of liquid
for 4 cups of veggies?
so, i kept adding rice wine vinegar
until i realized that i had added a little
over 1 1/4 cups. i felt better about
the chances of all of the veggies pickling,
instead of just the select few on the bottom.
it was good and vinegary -
especially on the leftovers the next night.
still, next time, i think i'll use this standby.

instead of pate or soft garlic butter,
these sandwiches call for mayonnaise
that's been spiked with sriracha and sliced scallions.
i used low-fat mayo,
squeezed in extra hot sauce
and added more sliced scallions.
this spread almost made me change
my negative feelings about mayonnaise.
basil, garlic, scallions
and the meatballs.
when i change a recipe from
beef or pork or lamb
to turkey,
there is always a voice
in the back of my head taunting me,
telling me that it's already ruined.
and then there's larry,
who is very good-natured about
ground turkey (probably just
happy to be getting some meat,
if i'm being honest), but who i think
also feels cheated when he sees
that a recipe planned for another meat,
especially pork.
and to top it all off,
i chose this day to take a stand against
skillet-cooked meatballs and instead,
bake them in the oven.
i was thinking disaster.
ground turkey, scallions, garlic, basil, fish sauce, hot sauce
and yes, it's true that we have
no idea how they would taste with pork
or browned in sesame oil.
but, after eating the baked meatballs
made with turkey,
we really don't care.
these are little flavor-bombs,
brimming with
fresh basil,
fish sauce and more.
they were tiny, and if not
intended for a sandwich,
could probably all have been eaten,
one by one,
plucked straight from the baking sheet.
they were potato chip-good.
cilantro, baguette
pickled jalapeno, cilantro, baguette
in case i haven't made it clear,
we loved, loved, loved
this home-cook's version of
banh mi. think flavorful,
without hours prepping
and crowd friendly
without new food intimidation.
or, just think: yum.
banh mi close-up
turkey meatball banh mi
adapted from bon appetit
if you start researching, you learn very quickly that banh mi enthusiasts are all adamant about one thing: if you don't have the right bread, you shouldn't even bother making it. in fact, when i asked our local vietnamese restaurant if they ever planned to add banh mi to their menu, they said that they wouldn't dare without finding the right bread vendor. the baguette should be very crunchy on the outside with a super soft interior. i have not been able to find anything like that around here. the first night, i used a type of bread called fizzle from a korean bakery around the block (this fizzle, by the way, could be a blog post of its own). it was not very crunchy, but i loved it. the next night, i used a french baguette that was very crunchy - larry preferred this one. we agreed to disagree.

and as for the changes - i've included them all below, from cutting instead of grating the veggies (i still had just about 4 cups carrots and daikon total), increasing the liquid and decreasing the sugar in the pickling, to using low-fat mayo for the spread to drizzling the (turkey-based) meatballs with sesame oil before baking, instead of browning them in the oil. i also halved the ground black pepper in the meatballs to 1/2 teaspoon - i didn't want the seasoning taking over the other flavors. and, i used pickled jalapeno instead of fresh - not traditional, but delicious. the original recipe is here.

pickled carrots and daikon
5 small-medium carrots (this is what was in the store), peeled and cut into tiny planks
1 large daikon (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into tiny planks
1 1/4 cups unseasoned rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

in bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring well. let sit at room temperature least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

spicy mayonnaise spread
2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, like sriracha
3 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced

in bowl, stir together all ingredients. taste; add more chili sauce to taste, if desired. (i did.)

turkey meatballs
1 pound ground turkey (i used 85% lean to accommodate for the no-pork factor)
1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped basil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (i splashed in a tiny bit extra)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, like sriracha (again, i added an extra squeeze)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon (or less) sesame oil

line large rimmed baking sheet with foil (coated with cooking spray) or parchment paper.

in bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. using 1 tablespoon measure, form 1-inch meatballs; place on baking sheet. cover and place in fridge.

when ready:
heat oven to 375˚f. drizzle meatballs with sesame oil. bake 8 minutes. flip meatballs and bake 8-9 minutes more, or until cooked through. (at this point, i turned on the broiler and broiled them for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan once midway through, just to crisp up the exterior of the meatballs. i was glad that i added this step, but i don't know that it's necessary.)

banh mi
we really enjoy pickled jalapenos and added a bunch to the sandwiches, and even more the second night. like the cilantro, however, if you're not a fan, don't feel that you have to use these. adapt them to your taste.

4 small-medium baguettes
spicy mayonnaise spread
fresh cilantro sprigs (about 16), broken into pieces
pickled jalapeno (about 18 slices)
turkey meatballs
pickled daikon and carrots

split baguettes down the center; gently remove most of the interior from the baguette, making sure to keep the shell in tact. spread inside of bread with spicy mayonnaise. add cilantro sprigs and pickled jalapenos.

line baguettes with hot meatballs; top with pickled carrots and daikons. (i also added some cilantro leaves for color, but if i wasn't taking a picture, i'm not sure i'd bother.)


shayma said...

Love it- I don;t eat pork and it's impossible to find a good banh mi made with turkey or chicken. love the recipe, love the write-up. herbs and meat, lots of good stuff here.

MrsWheelbarrow said...

Lordy, those look tasty. I've been wanting to make banh mi since that bon appetit landed in my mailbox, but it all seemed so labor intensive. Thanks for breaking it down. I'm going to make one big baguette full of bahn mi for my womens' group meeting tomorrow. That's how inspired I am!

brooke said...

shayma - thank you. i know, so much work has been put into making delicious pork banh mi - i often feel left out.

mrswheelbarrow - i thought the same thing in the just seemed like a lot of steps to make these, but it really wasn't bad. let me know how they go over. hope you love them as much we did.